03/27/13

Pope Francis – experienced manager set for reform

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Francis of Assisi began his saintly career following what he said was God’s command: “Rebuild my Church.” The new pope who took his name heard the same message from the cardinals who elected him.

By Tom Heneghan

The 13th-century Francis toured the Italian countryside repairing dilapidated chapels before realising his mission was to change the whole Roman Catholic Church.

pope francisWhat the first Jesuit pope has is management experience in his native Argentina as head of the Jesuit province and chairman of the national bishops conference. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he dealt with everything from poverty to national politics.

“He’s been at the top of the organisation, but he’s not been tamed by that,” says Rev James Hanvey, a Jesuit theologian. “In management speak, he’s held to the core values. He wants us all to refocus on the core values.”

Bergoglio’s record shows he has strong convictions and is not afraid to take unpopular decisions. Jose Maria Poirier, editor of the lay Catholic monthly Criterio in Buenos Aires, said Church staff there described him as an “attentive, human and considerate” boss who is also demanding, has little patience for bureaucracy, and appoints talented assistants.

His predecessor Benedict’s failure in this regard was partly to blame for the infighting that crippled the Curia bureaucracy and came to light in leaked Vatican documents last year.

SHAKEUP IN THE CURIA

The first hint Francis gave of plans to change the Curia came three days after his election when he reappointed its top bureaucrats temporarily rather than permanently, as Benedict did after being elected in 2005.

With his humble style, the pope has begun deflating the imperial side of the Vatican, which resembles a Renaissance monarchy with an absolute sovereign, a coterie of close advisers and Curia departments that answer to the pope but often don’t talk to each other.

Francis’s references to himself simply as the bishop of Rome – the position from which his papal authority flows – hints at a willingness to involve the hierarchy around the globe in running the world’s largest church.

Hanvey said a first step would be to call heads of national bishops conferences around the world to meet regularly in Rome as advisers. This was proposed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), but Popes John Paul and Benedict used it so rarely that some bishops complained they were being “treated like altar boys” rather than senior colleagues.

The Curia needs regular cabinet meetings, more international staffers to overcome its domination by Italian clerics and a full work day rather than schedules that end in early afternoon, U.S. theologian George Weigel said.

It has only two women in senior posts, another aspect of the Curia critics say needs to be changed.

One overlooked fact is that the Curia, with just over 2,000 employees, is actually understaffed. “They’re overwhelmed,” said one senior figure from another religion in contact with the Curia, who asked not to be named.

WAITING FOR OTHER SIGNALS

The opaque operations at the Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), were widely discussed among cardinals ahead of the conclave. Francis has criticised globalisation and unfettered capitalism in the past, so he may take a critical look at the bank, but he has not indicated his plans.

The book “His Holiness,” which published the leaked Vatican documents last year, detailed alleged corruption, inflated prices for work in the Vatican and clashes over the management at the bank.

The Council of Europe and the Bank of Italy have criticised it for lax anti-money-laundering controls and oversight, two areas where the Vatican says it is improving.

Critics also say the Church has not compensated victims of sexual abuse enough or held bishops sufficiently responsible for covering up cases. Francis would quickly tarnish his compassionate image if he did not go beyond the apologies and meetings with victims that Benedict pioneered.

Reputed to be a theological conservative, Francis has criticised Argentina’s government for legalising same-sex marriage, opposes abortion and women priests and defends the celibacy rule for male clergy. But he has also upbraided priests who refused to baptise babies of unmarried mothers. He has admitted to being “dazzled” by a young lady while in the seminary and said he helps priests who struggle with their vow of celibacy.

All this suggests a softer edge to some of his positions. “Benedict was clearly labelled” as a doctrinaire conservative, said Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli. “It will be easier for (Francis) to say things without the audience having a ready response.”

Complete Article HERE!

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03/26/13

My Prayer: Let Women Be Priests

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By ROY BOURGEOIS

AFTER serving as a Roman Catholic priest for 40 years, I was expelled from the priesthood last November because of my public support for the ordination of women.

Father Roy Bougeois from Georgia poses with a group of Roman Catholic activist in front of the VaticanCatholic priests say that the call to be a priest comes from God. As a young priest, I began to ask myself and my fellow priests: “Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not?” Isn’t our all-powerful God, who created the cosmos, capable of empowering a woman to be a priest?

Let’s face it. The problem is not with God, but with an all-male clerical culture that views women as lesser than men. Though I am not optimistic, I pray that the newly elected Pope Francis will rethink this antiquated and unholy doctrine.

I am 74 years old. I first felt God calling me to be a priest when I was serving in the Navy in Vietnam. I was accepted into the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in New York and was ordained in 1972. After working with the poor of Bolivia for five years, I returned to the United States. In my years of ministry, I met many devout Catholic women who told me about their calling to the priesthood.

Their eagerness to serve God began to keep me awake at night. As Catholics, we are taught that men and women are created equal: “There is neither male nor female. In Christ you are one” (Galatians 3:28).

While Christ did not ordain any priests himself, as the Catholic scholar Garry Wills has pointed out in a controversial new book, the last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, stressed that the all-male priesthood is “our tradition” and that men and women are equal, but have different roles.

Their reasons for barring women from ordination bring back memories of my childhood in Louisiana. For 12 years I attended segregated schools and worshiped in a Catholic church that reserved the last five pews for blacks. We justified our prejudice by saying this was “our tradition” and that we were “separate but equal.” During all those years, I cannot remember one white person — not a teacher, parent, priest or student (myself included) — who dared to say, “There is a problem here, and it’s called racism.”

Where there is injustice, silence is complicity. What I have witnessed is a grave injustice against women, my church and our God, who called both men and women to be priests. I could not be silent. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against others, in the end, it is not the way of a loving God who created everyone of equal worth and dignity.

In sermons and talks, starting in the last decade, I called for the ordination of women. I even participated in the ordination of one. This poked the beehive of church patriarchy. In the fall of 2008, I received a letter from the Vatican stating that I was “causing grave scandal” in the Church and that I had 30 days to recant my public support for the ordination of women or I would be excommunicated.

Last month, in announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict said he made his decision after examining his conscience before God. In a similar fashion, in November 2008, I wrote the Vatican saying that human conscience is sacred because it always urges us to do what is right and what is just. And after examining my conscience before God, I could not repudiate my beliefs.

Four years went by, and I did not get a response from the Vatican. Though I had formally been excommunicated, I remained a priest with my Maryknoll Order and went about my ministry calling for gender equality in the Catholic Church. But last November, I received a telephone call from Maryknoll headquarters informing me that they had received an official letter from the Vatican. The letter said that I had been expelled from the priesthood and the Maryknoll community.

This phone call was one of the most difficult and painful moments of my life. But I have come to realize that what I have gone through is but a glimpse of what women in the church and in society have experienced for centuries.

A New York Times/CBS poll this month reported that 70 percent of Catholics in the United States believed that Pope Francis should allow women to be priests. In the midst of my sorrow and sadness, I am filled with hope, because I know that one day women in my church will be ordained — just as those segregated schools and churches in Louisiana are now integrated.

I have but one simple request for our new pope. I respectfully ask that he announce to the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world: “For many years we have been praying for God to send us more vocations to the priesthood. Our prayers have been answered. Our loving God, who created us equal, is calling women to be priests in our Church. Let us welcome them and give thanks to God.”

Complete Article HERE!

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03/26/13

How an 11-Year-Old Girl Made the Catholic Archdiocese Bend

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Did Pope Francis ensure Bucks County’s Caroline Pla can play football?

By Larry Mendite

By now you have probably heard that Pla will play. Pla, as in Caroline Pla from Bucks County; play, as in play football. The only question that remains: How did an 11-year-old girl make the unbendable Archdiocese of Philadelphia bend?

Before we get to the answer to that question, I should remind you that Caroline Pla is great at football, a monster on defense. So you won’t be surprised that it was someone from an opposing team in the Doylestown CYO league who complained. A quick check of the rule book found that no girls were allowed.

carolineplaThis infuriated Pla’s family, and they set up a petition on Change.org. Last check it had over 108,000 signatures. The petition led to national media attention, with coverage on CNN and Good Morning America and an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ show; Ellen praised Caroline and pledged support.

Caroline also wrote an email to the head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese pleading her case. Archbishop Chaput chastised her for going to the media. “I’m perplexed that you would contact me last, after publicizing your situation in both the national and regional media … that kind of approach has no effect on my decision making.” I guess the Archbishop is not an Ellen fan.

It does seem curious, after two decades of scandal in the Catholic Church, and an uncovered cover-up in Philadelphia, that any official with the Archdiocese would suggest a child not be a tattletale.

The Archbishop put together a panel of advisors to study the Pla case, and the rule that bans her from playing in the Catholic Youth Organization football league. An insider told Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky that the advisors overwhelmingly wanted CYO football to be boys only. When someone on the panel mentioned that other youth football leagues, including Pop Warner, allow girls, there was group indignation. The insider told Polaneczky, “It was like, ‘We’re the Catholic Church. We don’t give in to pressure from society!’”

From the Archbishop’s email and the panel’s recommendation, it seemed Pla would never play CYO football again. But then a miracle happened. The Archbishop ignored the panel’s recommendation and ruled that Caroline and other girls could play.

I don’t think it was just a coincidence that the ruling came just after the church installed a new Pope, a Vatican outsider, a media-friendly reformer, who has already hinted at elevating the role of women in the Church.

Pope Francis certainly wasn’t involved in the Pla case, but it is easy to see how his election could have inspired Chaput’s apparent change of heart. Had a Vatican hardliner been selected by the Cardinals, the Archbishop likely would have taken a harder line himself. The new Pope of the People would want Caroline to play.

Francis will be the preeminent figure in the reformation of the Catholic Church. But don’t forget the girl in Bucks County who just wanted to play football. She symbolizes greater changes to come.

Complete Article HERE!

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